Putting the “Dream” in Team

CITON PROFESSIONAL SERVICES TEAM

Did you find the file you were looking for before your 9 am meeting this morning? Where did your computer save it? Was it in email? Teams, Webex? Wait, was it in that new web app you are using? If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.

The way we work is changing, that much is obvious. And while we have had collaboration tools for a number of years they have never been battle-tested on a grand scale brought by COVID-19. Sure, businesses have been able to rely on cloud applications including, project management, file storage, and even cloud-enabled systems for a few years now. But this has yet to function in a logical, integrated manner where the user experience really works and disparate systems talk together.

The magic happens when they work together, in unison and our organizational structure allows for a single pane of glass within which we can run our organizations, manage our teams, and delight our customers.

The image above does a great job of illustrating the complexity of the issue and unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to solve all of the issues we see today.

You are likely experiencing some or all of the issues and that collectively we will spend the next few years navigating the digital space looking for resolutions. Microsoft Teams can help, but it isn’t the only solution. Dropbox is nice but only solves one specific problem and to a degree, it introduces a few more. There is no shortage of tools, the question is are they the right tools for your business?

Is remote work still a ‘nice to have?’

Remote working is nothing new. Yet for most, it has often been available to a small subset of employees. However, COVID-19 and the ensuing mandate to work from home has made remote working the new norm. While some businesses were prepared, in most cases it was a scramble to get workers up and running. Some organizations were able to expand their remote-working policy, but others were required to build a solution from scratch. Only now are business leaders getting a chance to step back and review the impact remote working has had upon their workforce and organization.

Is remote work still a ‘nice to have?’

Prior to COVID-19, most IT decision makers were already citing the enablement of effective remote working as a critical business priority. Now, in light of COVID-19, remote working has become far more than a ‘nice to have’, and for IT departments, CIOs, and CTOs, business continuity and providing staff with the ability to work from anywhere, at any time, is of paramount importance.

According to Michael Wheeler-Wyatt, Head of Chrome Enterprise EMEA at Google, the mandate to work from home has led to unexpected benefits, including creating more quality time to spend with customers. “This is the new norm,” he says. “It is something we have all had to get used to, and I think it will continue. Companies and decision makers are now beginning to ask themselves: Do we need to go back to that expensive office suite? Do we need to spend two hours a day on a train anymore?”

Employees, also, have had a taste of working from home and established a new work/life routine, which many will be reluctant to give up quickly. Gerard Lavin, Product Strategist at Citrix, says, “I don’t think getting everyone back to the office is an efficient use of time or space anymore, and I expect to see more people working remotely, especially in certain sectors. . . . I expect to see more people looking for flexible work opportunities, too, and people looking to find ways to better work remotely.”

What is Google’s approach to remote working?

Most Google employees work from home and do so very effectively, says Wheeler-Wyatt. “Google built its technology to support remote working from scratch, which is a big differentiator.”

Google’s approach to home working is supported by five key pillars:

Ensure everything works: People expect technology to work, instantly, and at home this is crucial with less physical access to IT staff.

Give individuals the right device for the right job: Devices need to be versatile, durable, and powerful. Ideally there will be a selection of devices available for different use cases.

Remove the need for intervention from IT: If a new kit is being sent out to individuals, it must be easy to deploy and not require any specific skills on the user’s part. It must also be easy for IT to manage.

Security is paramount: We have seen a rise in cyber attacks during the global pandemic. A highly secure solution is essential, which doesn’t require any user setup.

Access to data: Employees need to be able to access all the apps they need to do their job as they would in the office.

How can we ensure that home workers stay connected as human beings?

Remote working technology needs to be designed intentionally to create human connections, and this instruction must come from the top down. Those in leadership need to understand that they cannot manage teams as they did in the office, and so they must find new ways to nurture the individual they manage and facilitate human connection. Furthermore, as Wheeler-Wyatt says, “Leaders must also appreciate that people cope differently, and people’s home environments can be an important factor. This is an opportunity for leaders to get to know their team better . . . closely monitoring their human contact and noting triggers of stress.” Lavin also stresses that leaders should be looking to use technology to automate away repetitive tasks, so that individuals have more time to spend on communicating with one another.

What impact does home working have upon organizational culture?

Organizational culture is typically reinforced inside the office, but while workforces remain at home, there is the danger that company values will be forgotten completely. Tech companies, for example, are overloaded with work, and the risk of burnout has never been greater. This is where culture and purpose become so important because it brings people back to why they are doing what they are doing. It is important for leaders to intentionally talk about their core values, all of the time. By doing so you are ensuring they remain front and center.

Gerard Lavin advises against trying to replicate office culture in people’s homes. “Rather I think we should consider it the other way around: We want to create elements of working from home when we go back into the office . . . including flexibility and having control over what you do and when you do it, along with the chance to be a bit more of an individual.”

Additionally, there is still a culture of presenteeism in many organizations, and our recent baptism into home working has presented businesses with the opportunity to reverse that. If there is a culture of trust between employer and employee, then people will often work harder, even if they are not being watched.

Is remote work here to stay?

Having gone through the world’s largest proof-of-concept in working from home, is there any going back? Over the past few months, organizations have been forced to experiment with an extreme scenario of working from home, yet the outcome has been hugely positive in many cases, providing businesses with the chance to rethink what the routine of work should look like. It has unlocked workforces previous inaccessible to office-based organizations, and in some countries COVID-19 has reversed regulatory challenges that businesses have been fighting against for many years, enabling them to achieve digital transformation in weeks rather than years.

Lavin argues home working “has always been here. We have been talking about it for 30 years”. He says sometimes it takes time for people to realize the benefits of technology. “But now, we have had an inflection point — an event which has forced people to rethink the way they work, and it has shown people there are different ways to work.”

As restrictions continue to ease, businesses can take a step back, work out their strategy, select the right partners, and ensure they are doing remote working in a way that empowers their employees to do their best work and that will be sustainable over the long term.

Potholes, Bezos and IoT

Not one of ours, we like to keep our conversations private. Instead a photo by Rahul Chakraborty

Would you like to guess how many IoT devices are in service today? According to a recent study, there are about 20 billion connected devices in the world. By 2025 it is estimated that this number will grow to over 25 billion devices – that is a lot of gadgets!

We should put that into perspective – just for fun.

There are about 1 billion cars on the planet, McDonald’s sells about 900 million Big Macs, worldwide every year, and on one day in January of this year, 2020, Jeff Bezos made $13.2 Billion. That probably has no bearing here other than it is an incredible fact.
We know that there is massive, exponential growth in IoT across this blue planet we call home. The issue is that every one of these devices needs to be connected to infrastructure in order to operate. And this is the rub. That network infrastructure is aging and not being replaced at the speed our innovation requires.

It is a little bit like having all these brand new convertibles on the road but the road is less road-like and more like a tired-looking, pothole-ridden, excuse for a surface. A bit like driving in Duluth.
Now, I don’t know about you but the quality of the road makes for the quality of the drive, and networks are just the same. A recent article described the flurry of net new IoT devices as a “decimator of networks.”

In the work we do, across the markets we serve, we see this all the time. Budgets are spent on new devices, tablets, laptops, desktops, thermostats, cameras, lighting, and a myriad of other sensors with no regard for where they are connecting. The infrastructure plays an invaluable role in defining how efficiently the device functions as well as the user experience.

Here’s an idea, let’s split the budget. Let’s double down and tend to the infrastructure for a change. Let’s invest in modern switches, state of the art WiFi, and of course firewalls. Spending here will ensure that our devices can seamlessly and securely transmit their data to their desired destination. Whether it be for analytics or Netflix, our data deserves a better road to travel on.

Conduct PLC meetings in Teams

CITON EDUCATION TEAM We know that connection with colleagues is vital, especially during this time of increased isolation. Many educators are eager for more time brainstorming, sharing ideas, and fueling their passions through their work in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). In this video, we cover how to meet with fellow teachers, schedule meetings for later, and record meeting notes. Have you ever been typing back and forth with someone and wish you could just talk with them in person instead? With Teams, you can quickly do that with the click of one button: Meet now. If you record your meetings, they can be saved within the respective channel so absent members can easily find and view later.

Teams makes it easy for educators to continue or create new Professional Learning Communities. Watch this video to learn more about PLC capabilities in Teams.

5 Lessons learned from lockdown

CITON Pandemic Response Group

Just when you think it’s going to end; this pandemic seems to be picking up steam. This makes the lessons we learned during the first phase of lockdown really important.

Our adaptation to working from home was forced, quick, and had to be comprehensive enough to provide the same resources we had at the office inside our homes.

Based on customer experience, this is what made the difference:

  1. The design matters
    Network design seems a little mundane these days. However, thinking about how the design will work in a remote world makes a big difference to the user experience. Data, backups, accessibility, security, and functionality are still affected by the overall design. We found that our technology stack made it easier to reliably provide access to everyone to work from home, all while providing superior performance and security.
  2. Tools make a huge difference
    As a provider, we subscribe and pay for a host of tools that allow us to monitor, assess, report on, and remotely maintain networks across the markets we cover. The right tools are reliable and allow us to dynamically maintain your systems by packaging and rolling updates out to our customer base. Done well, this makes the difference in user and network reliability.
  3. Security is more important than ever
    Earlier this year we started with a clear understanding of the number of devices that we were managing. That all changed in February when we entered lockdown. Now, we had work devices, home devices, new devices that required access to corporate data. This explosion of devices and access meant that our technology stack had to dynamically secure all of these new endpoints. Layering security, across the network and the devices, was clearly the right way to mitigate risk.
  4. Cloud is the clear winner
    We saw a clear difference between cloud-enabled customers and those with either hybrid cloud or on-premise networks. Our cloud adopters had little to no change required when the pandemic forced us to work from home. The same applications that were allowed from the corporate sites were immediately made available to any user, on any device, in any location.
  5. Consistency still wins in I.T.
    At CITON we are big believers of the power of consistency – it’s our “jam.” We vet, we test, we audition new technology each quarter. Only the best make it to the show. Citon’s technology-stack, C-STACK is a curated set of hardware, and software tools that we know, love, and passionately believe will improve the way you work. We train and educate everyone in our organization on our “c-stack” to ensure we can consistently design, build, and maintain the technology while the stack delivers the performance of a lifetime – protecting your data.

Now that’s a show we can all applaud.